La Trobe Business School

Month: August 2016

Donna Burnett officially appointed as ATEM Fellow

Donna Burnett

La Trobe Business School would like to warmly congratulate LBS School Manager Ms Donna Burnett, who was recently officially appointed as a fellow by the Association of Tertiary Education Management.

The Fellow status is awarded to members who have been working in tertiary education administration and management for at least eight years, and have held a senior role demonstrating strategic management and leadership for a minimum of two years. Leadership and service to the tertiary education community over at least five years must also be demonstrated.

“I am passionate about Professional Development opportunities for staff, Ms Donna Burnett said, “I also subscribe to ATEM’s mantra stating that tertiary administrators and managers are people who make a vital contribution to the central aims of their institutions.”

The award of ATEM Fellow recognises members who have pursued their professional development and helped to improve professional practice. The award of Fellow represents the culmination of a sustained period of commitment to the profession and reflects the superior level of achievement in both professional practice and professional development of the member.

Currently, Ms Donna Burnett is the only La Trobe University Staff Member to have to the ATEM Fellow status. “I am truly honoured to have Fellow status in an association that promotes and believes in the worth and value of the profession of tertiary administration and management,” she said.

The FIRN PhD course in banking and stability: things I have learned as a young researcher at LBS.


By Shawgat S. Kutubi

I recently attended the banking and stability course offered by the Financial Research Network (FIRN) and organized by the University of Sydney Business School from 18-22 July, 2016.  I am a PhD candidate in LBS in the Department of Accounting.  My thesis research is focused on “Busy Directors’ Impact on Bank Performance, Risk-Taking and Earnings Quality”.  As stated on its website, “FIRN : the Financial Research Network – is a network of finance schools across Australian universities whose focus is on developing better research outcomes, better researchers, better educated PhD students and better collaborations nationally and internationally through networking and researcher development.” (

The 5-day long course took place at the newly established building of the university at its Darlington campus and had 22 participants from several business school across Australia. Days were divided into two morning and afternoon sessions each day. The event was co-ordinated by Associate Professor Eliza Wu from the University of Sydney Business School.

1. Meaningful Feedback

Before the course began, the coordinator sent designated papers to all participants, with the papers being presented during the morning sessions. Each presenter was assigned two papers, and asked to present them critically. Afterwards both presenter and participants were asked to develop a new research idea using the findings and limitations discussed in presented papers. Then, the coordinator paired students to discuss future research possibilities using the new idea(s) generated within the class, according to their own research background. I found the brainstorming part of finding new research ideas fascinating.

The afternoon sessions allowed the PhD researchers to discuss their own research. This session gave me and many others the opportunity to learn about new data-analysis techniques and various data-sources from the course participants and coordinator. As an emerging researcher, hearing other researcher’s critical comments allowed me see my research from an entirely different perspective.

2. Research doesn’t have boundaries

As a PhD researcher joining this course I found that it particularly helped me to learn about certain tools of research from experienced academics. One of the experienced participants was Professor Iftekhar Hasan, who is a Professor of Finance, at Fordham University, USA. Speaking to him made me realise that there are no boundaries to doing research; research interest and research jurisdictions should not necessarily make the researcher parochial. Professor Hasan shared his personal journey of becoming a world class researcher, motivating the emerging young researchers attending to develop career strategies according to the ever growing challenges in the world of academia. This, along with speaking to other passionate researchers, motivated me to try and seize more international opportunities as a researcher, once I complete my PhD.

In short, this course was a unique opportunity for a young researcher to network with banking and finance researchers at Australian universities. I would strongly recommend all fellow PhD researchers at La Trobe Business School to join courses offered by FIRN (and other organizations who host courses and degree programs).

I would particularly like to thank my supervisor Professor Kamran Ahmed, Department of Accounting, for giving me this opportunity and encouraging me to join this course at a later stage of my thesis writing.



Developing Future Public Sector Leaders – International Day of the World’s Indigenous People


August 9th is the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, a day to promote and protect the rights of the world’s indigenous populations. Last June, examples from schools across Australia, Canada and New Zealand and the work that they are doing to engage Indigenous students and promote Indigenous businesses were featured on the Prime Time Blog, including an Aboriginal EMBA at Beedie School of Business, a programme to support Indigenous Entrepreneurs at Gustavson School of Business, the Indigenous Programmes Unit at University of New South Wales, contextualizing the MBA with an Indigenous focus at the University of Waikato, promoting accounting as a career choice with Indigenous students at Deaken University and mentoring a new generation of Indigenous leaders at University of Wollongong. The Primetime blog is connected to the Principles of Responsible Management and Education and aims to share best practices on how to mainstream sustainability and responsible leadership into management education globally. The blog serves as a platform to share and discuss inspirational activities that promote the development of responsible leaders.

Recently, they featured La Trobe Business School’s innovative programme focused on developing future Indigenous business leaders in the Public sector. Gisselle Weybrecht spoke with Dr Suzanne Young Head of Department of Management and Marketing and Dr Geraldine Kennett, Professor of Practice, Department of Management & Marketing about their new programme.

 What is the programme for public servants?

La Trobe Business School developed a new Graduate Certificate in Management (Public Sector) in partnership with the Institute of Public Administration of Australia (IPAA), and in consultation with the IPAA Indigenous Advisory Committee. Initially enrolling 32 Indigenous public servants, the course has now expanded to be a combination of Indigenous and Non-Indigenous public sector professionals learning together. The course takes 1.5 years full-time or 2 years part time.

This innovative course uses a partnership approach; the participants study leadership, entrepreneurial business planning, financial management and accounting with the University and public policy making with the Institute of Public Administration of Australia.  The students develop a plan for an entrepreneurial business or policy idea in their first subject and then build on this plan in subsequent subjects, cumulating in ‘A Pitch’ to senior public sector leaders.  This practical form of assessment builds their confidence to get strategic buy-in for their business and/or policy ideas. Many of the students have used their new learning and skills to achieve higher level positions in the public sector. Four students are also continuing their studies with the La Trobe University MBA programme in 2016.

As academics we have gained knowledge about Indigenous culture and how to integrate social identity into learning styles which has enabled us to develop supportive pedagogy for teaching.  Our course ensures that the learning outcomes support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with the capacity to straddle their leadership obligations in the workplace as well as in the Indigenous community.

 How did it come about?

In 2010 the Australian government highlighted the social, political and economic gap between Indigenous Australians and the rest of the community. The Review of Higher Education Access and Outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (2012) argues that improving higher education outcomes among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will contribute to nation building and reduce Indigenous disadvantage.

The need for a postgraduate qualification for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Public Servants was highlighted as important in a study IPAA Victoria commissioned with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). The study highlighted the barriers to, and enablers of, career advancement for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders employed in the public sector including the need for professional development opportunities. Indigenous public servants experience a higher turnover rate than their non-indigenous peers. The 2012-13 Australian Public Service State of the Sector report found that 20.5% of indigenous employees left the APS after less than one year  — almost four times the rate of non-indigenous employees (5.9%). This is another part the challenge this programme aims to tackle.

IPAA approached La Trobe Business School to develop and conduct a post graduate course due to its expertise in providing higher education for Aboriginal people, its status as the United Nations Principles of Responsible Management Education (PRME) Champion Business school in Australia and the ability for regional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Public Servants to continue their higher education at La Trobe University’s regional campuses across our region.

 What have been some of the successes?

From the feedback loop it is clear that the project produces measurable impact for Indigenous peoples (including students and community), La Trobe University (including staff), IPAA, and the higher education sector.

Achievements to date include:

  • Initial enrolment of 32 students into the course
  • Strong retention rate with 22 students continuing into their 3rd subject
  • Employers contributing to student fees
  • Orientation programme and guidelines for delivery of Indigenous education
  • Second cohort of programme began in late 2015 consisting of Indigenous and Non-Indigenous students
  • Students’ management skills enhanced in entrepreneurship and innovation, accounting and leadership
  • Students’ leadership skills enhanced in communication and team work
  • Peer and collaborative learning enhancing cross cultural learning between students and staff and in the future between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous students.
  • Four students progressing through to enrolment in the MBA


For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students it provides an educational experience and improved educational outcomes and opportunities for employment and career advancement. A specific Indigenous course enables Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to bring their culture and identity into the learning experience, thereby making the teaching relevant for their needs. Also for Indigenous communities, it supports economic development, assists in closing the gap and provides mechanisms for breaking the cycle of Indigenous disadvantage.

Do you have any advice for schools thinking of doing something similar?

It is important to develop and work in partnerships with those organisations and people in the community who are legitimately recognised with expertise by Indigenous peoples. It is also important to have orientation programs for teaching staff in Indigenous culture and nurturing this in the teaching environment. Flexibility of approach, and assessments that are meaningful and authentic to the Indigenous students are also important.

What are the next Steps for La Trobe Business School in this area?

The course is now open for non-indigenous students as well to provide a culturally safe learning environment for students to be able to learn together. This enhances the learning of non-indigenous students who are all practising public servant professionals and so builds their knowledge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and the importance of culturally safe practices.  This also provides an environment where cross cultural knowledge is exchanged and others’ perspectives are more fully understood.


This article was originally published, here.





LBS hosts secondary school Dream it, Plan it, Pitch it competition, with students putting business ideas into action

21/7/16 Melbourne Business Showcase

Melbourne winner: ‘Bean here before?’

In July, La Trobe Business School proudly hosted the ‘Dream it, Plan it, Pitch It!” competition as part of La Trobe University’s Outreach Programme for secondary school students.  This is an important event, supported by Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CAANZ), through which LBS provides VCE students with opportunities to actively participate in entrepreneurial activities, experience university, connect with their peers, and meet with academics and industry professionals.

After dreaming up an idea for a business or product, either individually or in teams of two or three, business management students in secondary schools in Melbourne and Albury-Wodonga learnt how to outline, develop and complete a full business plan as part of the VCE curriculum. Complementing the year 11 VCE curriculum, La Trobe University’s ‘Dream it, Plan it, Pitch it! competition asked the business students to submit their completed business plans and pitch their ideas to groups of roving judges consisting of industry professionals and La Trobe University academics and students during a showcase event.
In Melbourne, this year’s winning initiative was a family friendly café by the name of ‘Bean here before?’ offering custumers family-oriented activities and free Wi-Fi. The second prize went to ‘XOXO Cosmetics’, an online platform to sell overseas make-up brands at a better price than they sell for in Australian retail.

This year’s winner in Albury-Wodonga focussed on beauty as well. Students pitched an idea called ‘Beneath the skin,’ a beauty tips forum that doubled as a mental health initiative by creating a safe environment for women to connect and seek guidance from each other. By selling monthly subscription beauty boxes, the organisations would be able to raise funds for the initiative.

The runner up was ‘Ask Hygiene’, where the students wanted to ensure that every primary and secondary school bathroom would be equipped with a vending machine stocked with sanitary items.

“We were delighted to see so many business ideas that focussed on the local community this year,” La Trobe University’s School Partnership Advisor Jenny Snelling said. “We had several student groups thinking up initiatives catering to more vulnerable groups in society like people disadvantaged by homelessness, or thinking of ways that families in their local community could meet up and connect.”

For students, the competition is a great opportunity to put theory into practice and learn how to identify a demand in their direct environment. One student pitched a business idea that saw him opening a retro-style barber shop, where men could go to get their hair cut, rent a suit, and get their shoes shined. Other students had completed full prototypes to strengthen their pitch. “It’s refreshing to see how these students choose to tackle a gap in the market and use their creative imagination to bring the idea to life,” Jenny Snelling said.

For competing students, the competition allows them to peak behind the veil of the business world and be exposed to an industry they might want to work in once they graduate: “The ‘Dream it, Plan it, Pitch it’ program delivered by La Trobe University provided a fantastic opportunity for our students to experience the world of business and all that a career in business may offer,” high school teacher Alison Leahy said. “Our students were inspired and challenged as they created ideas, developed business plans, worked with mentors and pitched and presented their finished products and services.  We really appreciate all the support and mentorship provided and highly recommend participation in this program to other schools.”

“The day really brought the theory to life,” a Melbourne teacher commented. “Students were able to apply their skill and knowledge in a practical manner that made the subject relevant and enjoyable.”

For students, the opportunity was engaging if not a little nerve-racking: “Needless to say we were all very nervous and excited, as we didn’t know what to expect on the day. We were very impressed by the efforts of the other students from the other schools involved in the program!”

“I thought this was a great experience and I’m so happy that I got the chance to participate in it,” Business Management student Katelyn Hart said. “I learnt all the steps you are supposed to go through to make your own business; including all the elements you have to think about. Going into this planning process, I was under the impression that it wouldn’t be that difficult. However, because of the amount of work you have to put in, it was somewhat harder than I expected. But I would still recommend this ‘Dream it, Plan it, Pitch it’ program to future years!”

Business Management Student Steph Lauria also saw it as a chance to connect with her peers: “It was a great opportunity to share my passion for my business with others, as well as seeing other student’s business ideas and how they put their ideas into action,” she commented.

LBS is already looking forward to the 2017 competition and would to thank Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CAANZ) for their generous support this year.


Department of Economics and Finance, LBS, Choice Modelling Workshop a major success

20160715_0951331-Tony McGrew

La Trobe Business School’s Department of Economics and Finance hosted a well-attended and highly successful Choice Modelling Workshop on 15 July 2016, at La Trobe’s City Campus. The workshop brought together international and Australian researchers on choice modelling and was organised by LBS academics A/Professor Buly Cardak and Dr Peter Sivey (RMIT). Presenters came from Monash University, University of Melbourne, UniSA, La Trobe University and the University of Kent, with most Melbourne and some interstate universities represented by academic staff and PhD candidates. It was pleasing and exciting to see both Marketing and Economics researchers presenting in and attending the same forum.

Choice modelling is a specialisation in empirical or applied research that sits between the use of survey data and the use of experiments. It involves researchers providing variation in hypothetical survey questions in order to elicit the preferences of survey respondents. There are many researchers in Australia using these methods in environmental, health and transport economics and in marketing.

Presenters and guests were welcomed by Head of La Trobe’s ASSC College, Professor Tony McGrew. The day involved a diverse range of research presentations, including a paper by Professor Tony Scott (University of Melbourne) that investigated how much time doctors and specialists want to spend working in public hospitals; a paper by Professor Harmen Oppewal (Monash University) that studied how the marketing of tourist destinations to time constrained tourists; a paper by Professor Iain Fraser (University of Kent at Canterbury and LBS) that used eye tracking to test what parts of packaging respondents were looking at when making food choices; and a paper by Professor John Rose (University of South Australia) that investigated people’s car purchasing choices under budget constraints, with interesting findings about choices after people are forced to make budgeting allowances when planning a car purchase.

These are details of only some of the presentations, information about all seven presentations and in some cases, slides and papers are available, here.

Guests and presenters left the workshop excited and inspired about the research presented and were hopeful that the Choice Modelling Workshop might become an annual event.

Rio 2016 Olympics Explainer: what is Team Refugee?


by Emma Sherry

The Rio 2016 Olympic Games will see the inclusion of the first Team of Refugee Olympic Athletes. In March this year, the Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) created a team of Refugee Olympic Athletes. This team will be treated at the Olympic Games like all the other teams of the 206 National Olympic Committees (NOCs).

Athletes competing at the Olympic Games (both summer and winter events) must be affiliated with their National Olympic Committee (NOC). However there have been times in recent history where nations have been dissolved or new nations have emerged due to political transition, or international sanctions have left athletes without a formal nation or NOC. These athletes have traditionally competed as Independent Olympic Athletes.

 Team Refugee will be treated like any other national team, with the same rights and responsibilities. For all official representations of the team, including any medal ceremonies, the Olympic flag will be raised and the Olympic Anthem will be played and the team marches behind the Olympic flag before host team Brazil at the Opening Ceremony.

Olympic Solidarity is covering all travel and other participation expenses for the team and will continue to support the athletes of the team after the Olympic Games.

Ten athletes have been selected by the International Olympic Committee to participate in the 2016 Olympic Games Team Refugee, with each being hosted by another National Olympic Committee (NOC). The athletes are:

  • Rami Anis (M): Country of origin – Syria; sport – swimming
  • Yiech Pur Biel (M): Country of origin – South Sudan; sport – athletics, 800m
  • James Nyang Chiengjiek (M): Country of origin – South Sudan; sport – athletics, 400m
  • Yonas Kinde (M): Country of origin – Ethiopia; sport – athletics, marathon
  • Anjelina Nada Lohalith (F): Country of origin – South Sudan; sport – athletics, 1500m
  • Rose Nathike Lokonyen (F): Country of origin – South Sudan; sport – athletics, 800m
  • Paulo Amotun Lokoro (M): Country of origin – South Sudan; sport – athletics, 1500m
  • Yolande Bukasa Mabika (F): Country of origin – Democratic Republic of the Congo; sport – judo, -70kg
  • Yusra Mardini (F): Country of origin – Syria; sport – swimming
  • Popole Misenga (M): Country of origin – Democratic Republic of the Congo; sport – judo, -90kg

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) stated that “their athletic prowess and resilience is a tribute to the courage and perseverance of all refugees – at a time when the number of people displaced by violence and persecution is at the highest level since the Second World War”. Indeed, growing support for Team Refugee across the globe is being realised via awareness campaigns and messages of support.

As the world around us witnesses the growing displacement of entire communities due to war, conflict and the growing spread of terrorism; it is heartening to know that these elite athletes, including those without a nation, have the opportunity to take their place at the Olympic Games.

 Want to show your support for the Refugee Olympic Team? Find out how here.

Record breakers: Australian women at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Emma Sherry

By Emma Sherry, Associate Professor, La Trobe Business School and La Trobe University Centre for Sport and Social Impact

For the first time in the history of Australian participation in the summer Olympic Games, we have more female athletes representing our country than males. The team travelling to Rio hosts 214 women and 206 men, with cyclist Anna Meares being awarded the role as flag bearer for the team at the Opening Ceremony this weekend. Indeed, women have key leadership roles in this Games, with the Chef de Mission, Kitty Chiller, making headlines this week in her strong advocacy for the health and safety of her athletes and officials accompanying the team to Rio.

Figure 1 Fanny Curack (left) Wilhelmina Wylie (right)

Figure 1 Fanny Durack (left) Wilhelmina Wylie (right)

Australian women have been competing at the Olympic Games since 1912; our first female athletes were Fanny Durack and Wilhelmina Wylie at Stockholm in the sport of swimming. Australian female representation increased from 16% at Munich in 1972 to 46% at Beijing in 2008 and London 2012, where Australian female athletes won over half of all of the medals. In the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics the Australian team saw 50/50 representation for the first time across both sexes in any Olympic Games.

The London 2012 Summer Olympic Games were declared the “women’s games” – with female participation in all sports and every nation represented by at least one female athlete. Since the first woman participated in the modern Olympics in Paris in 1900, female participation at the Olympic Games has increased exponentially, in both the number of athletes competing, and the number of women’s events.

The inclusion of a women’s eight rowing crew to the team (after the disqualification of the Russian team due to WADA infringements) tipped the balance in favour of the Australian women participating on the world stage in Rio. The Australian Olympic Committee has officially announced the Women’s Rowing Eight crew for the 2016 Olympic Games following the decision on July 26th by FISA (International Rowing Federation) to award Australia a qualifying place.

Charlotte Sutherland, Meaghan Volker, Fiona Albert, Lucy Stephan, Molly Goodman, Jessica Morrison, Olympia Aldersey, Alexandra Hagan and Sarah Banting (coxswain) have all been selected and these nine women tipped the gender balance of the Australian team.

The International Olympic Committee has worked for many years to promote women in sport, both on and off the field of play. The goal of gender equality is enshrined in the Olympic Charter, the guiding document for all Olympic organisations, while defining strategies to dismantle gender barriers is the primary goal of the IOC’s Women and Sport Commission.

The Australian Sports Commission also has a strong position on the promotion of gender equity in the management and support of athletes, most recently evidenced by the requirement for National Sport Organisations to equally fund athlete travel. The ASC has also identified the promotion of women in leadership roles in sport as a key priority and requires all funded national sport organisations to have a minimum of 40% gender equity on boards of directors.

For the Rio summer Olympic Games, the representation and influence of women in Australian sport has never been more apparent.

Is it Student Refund Time?

Mark Morris La Trobe Business School Professor of Practice

By Mark Morris [1]

For many students there are probably few more off-putting or intimidating chores than the prospect of preparing and lodging an income tax return with the Australian Taxation Office (the ATO).

However, where the income tax deducted from a student’s part-time job exceeds the total income tax payable for the tax year the only way in which a student can generally obtain a refund of the overpaid income tax is by lodging an income tax return.

Of course other students will be legally required to lodge a return and pay tax where insufficient income tax been retained from their salary, or where they derive other categories of assessable income in respect of which they have not paid enough income tax.

So how do students navigate their way around the complex and seemingly impenetrable world of Australian tax?

Well here are a few tips to guide you on your way in working out whether you need to lodge an Australian income tax return for the year ended 30 June 2016, and how to prepare a return should you need to file one with the ATO.

  1.  Are you an Australian tax resident?

The first step is to work out if you are an Australian resident for Australian income tax purposes.

If you were born in Australia and continue to live here, you will be regarded as an Australian resident for income tax purposes as this is the country in which you reside.

However, it is important for international students to recognise that being a resident for Australian tax purposes is quite different to being a permanent resident for Australian immigration purposes, and that they may sometimes unknowingly be an Australian tax resident.

Very broadly, an international student may be regarded as residing in Australia if they are here for such a period of time that their behavior reflects a degree of continuity, routine or habit that is consistent with residing in Australia.

Whilst it is a question of fact in each case as a broad rule of thumb the ATO takes the view that living in Australia for six months is a period of time which is generally consistent with a person residing here for tax purposes.

For example, in one of the ATO’s binding public taxation rulings it held that an overseas student who came to Australia to attend a pre-arranged 4-year university course was an Australian resident even though he left after 6 months to return to his home country following a family illness as his living and working arrangements whilst in Australia were consistent with someone whose pattern of behavior was that they resided in Australia[2].

Accordingly, if you are unsure whether you are an Australian resident for income tax purposes you should contact the ATO or a registered tax agent to obtain more clarity as to whether or not you are an Australian resident in working out your tax rights and obligations.

  1. What happens if you are an Australian tax resident?

Assuming you are regarded as an Australian resident for tax purposes what are some of the key tax implications you need to consider.

On the plus side you will be entitled to a tax free threshold which will mean that you do not pay any income tax for the year ended 30 June 2016 if your total taxable income was $18,200 or less.

Accordingly, if you worked part time and derived salary income from which income tax was deducted by your employer you will be able to obtain a tax refund of any Pay As You Go (PAYG) tax retained from your salary income if your total taxable income was $18,200 or less.

In practice, most individual resident taxpayers will also usually be entitled to a tax credit being the low income tax offset which means that no tax will typically be payable if that person’s taxable income is below $20,542. However, the amount of this this tax offset reduces tax payable but is not in itself refundable.

On the negative side you will be subject to tax on all your assessable income for the year ended 30 June 2016 regardless of where it was sourced. For example, an overseas student would need to include both their Australian salary income and any interest income earned in a bank account held in their home country.

In addition, Australian residents are subject to a 2% Medicare levy but only where their taxable income exceeds certain thresholds.

By contrast a non-resident is only taxable on assessable income which has an Australian source being generally locally derived investment income. However, such income will be subject to tax at a rate of 32.5% for any taxable income derived up to $80,000 as there is no tax-free threshold for non-resident individuals.

  1. What do I need if I want to lodge a return for the 2016 year?

Most students who have been employed would have already been issued a tax file number which is a prerequisite for every individual lodging an income tax return.

If for some reason you are lodging a return but do not have a tax file number you will need to apply for one from the ATO either directly or by using a registered tax agent.

You should then collate all the records and information you will need to prepare you income tax return including, amongst others, any payment summary, bank interest statements, dividend slips, invoices and receipts.

Assuming you have a tax file number you may consider preparing and lodging your income tax return on-line using the ATO’s myTax product if your tax affairs are reasonably simple. Further details on myTax can be found, here.

Otherwise it may be prudent to contact a registered tax agent to ensure you identify all your entitlements and to ensure that your income tax return is correctly prepared.

Regardless of how you lodge your return you will need to disclose full bank account details when preparing your income tax return if you expect to receive a tax refund.

  1. What types of income need to be included in your return?

As discussed, as an Australian resident you will be taxed on all of your assessable income wherever it is derived.

Some of the more common types of assessable income include the following:

  • Salary and wages (whether as a full-time, part-time or casual employee);
  • Allowances and bonuses (where received during the 2016 income year);
  • Tips and gratuities (such as those received working in hospitality jobs);
  • Fees received is an independent contractor under a contract for service;
  • Any business income derived during the year (not being income derived from carrying on a hobby);
  • Australian government payments and allowances including, amongst others, Newstart allowance, youth allowance, AuStudy payments and certain other educational and training allowances;
  • Interest income;
  • Dividend income (including the amount of any franking credit tax offset for any franking credit attached to a dividend paid by an Australian resident company);
  • Any distributions received as a beneficiary from a family trust or as a partner in a partnership; and
  • Capital gains arising from the disposal of certain CGT assets (which is a highly complex area requiring specialist expertise).

The total of such assessable income may be reduced by eligible deductions which may take the form of work-related deductions, self-education expenses in certain circumstances and personal deductions.

  1. What type of work-related deductions can you claim?

You may be entitled to claim a deduction for expenses directly incurred in the course of gaining or producing your assessable income. However, you will not be able to claim an outright deduction which is capital in nature although you may be able depreciate certain capital assets like a computer over time for tax purposes. In addition, you will not be entitled to claim a deduction for expenditure which is private in nature such as the cost of conventional clothing (e.g. suits) purchased for work purposes.

Some of the more common types of deductions you may be able to claim are as follows:

  • Work-related subscription and union fees;
  • Protective clothing and certain work uniforms (including compulsory work uniforms required by your employer);
  • Home office expenses (where you are required to work at home after hours and have a separate room allocated in your home study for that purpose);
  • Employment related telephone mobile and internet costs; and
  • Travel expenses between worksites (but excluding travel between home and work)).

You may also be entitled to claim a deduction for the cost of tools of trade, briefcases and calculators costing less than $300 to the extent to which you use it for work-related purposes.

However, you will only generally be able to claim any work related expenses costing $300 or more if you have retained all the relevant invoices and receipts.

  1. When are self-education costs allowable?

Broadly, self-education expenses are only deductible to the extent that the course of study undertaken will either maintain or improve your skills in your current occupation.

Accordingly, you will not be entitled to claim the costs of your course if you’ve not yet embarked on a particular career. Nor will you be able to claim such costs if you have decided to change careers and have incurred such expenses in studying a new area of expertise.

However, you will be able to claim a deduction for self-education expenses where the study or training you are undertaking is likely to enhance your chances of promotion or increase your income earning capacity in your existing occupation.

Further details as to when self-education expenses are allowable or not are set out in Taxation Ruling TR98/9 which can be downloaded, here.

Eligible self-education costs include, amongst others, course fees, textbooks, stationary, travel costs and the depreciation of items such as laptops, tablets and printers. However, it is necessary to add back $250 of any self-education expenses as being non-allowable.

Finally, any Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) repayments are non-deductible.

  1. What other personal deductions may be allowable?

Donations of $2 dollars or more to a deductible gift recipient (e.g. a charity like the Red Cross) will be allowable provided you have kept copies of receipts for any gifts made.

You can also claim a deduction for any fee paid to a registered tax agent during the year ended 30 June 2016 for the cost of managing your tax affairs. However, any amount paid to a registered tax agent to assist you in in preparing your 2016 income tax return will only be deductible in the year ended 30 June 2017.

  1. What tax offsets can you claim?

Whilst tax deductions may reduce assessable income tax offsets are directly applied as a credit to reduce tax payable.

Certain tax offsets may also result in a refund to the extent that the tax credit exceeds tax payable.

The most common tax offsets that a student may claim include the beneficiary tax offset, the franking credit tax offset and the small business tax offset.

A beneficiary tax offset may be available where a student receives a newstart allowance, youth allowance, Austudy payments and certain other Commonwealth education or training programs.

The calculation of this offset can be complex but this offset may not only reduce tax payable on the amount of Government benefits received but also assessable income received from other sources.

Further details on the beneficiary tax offset can be found, here.

A resident company may pass on a tax credit for tax it has paid to shareholders when it pays such shareholders a franked dividend. Such a tax credit can be claimed as a franking credit tax offset which may also result in a tax refund where the franking credit exceeds tax payable.

Finally, where a student is also carrying on a business that individual may be entitled to the small business income tax offset for the year ended 30 June 2016 being 5% of the income tax payable on the portion of an individual’s taxable income that is ‘total net small business income’. An individual is only able to claim one small business tax offset for an income year irrespective of the number of sources of small business income derived by that individual and the maximum amount of the offset is capped to $1,000 per year. The application of this offset is also quite complex and specialist advice should be sought if you intend to claim it.

  1. What are some of the potential traps to watch out for?

There are special rules to discourage adults from splitting income with their children (i.e. minors) aged under 18 at the end of the year unless that minor is engaged in a full-time occupation, receives a carer allowance, disability support pension or double orphan pension or a person who is disabled or a beneficiary under a special disability trust.

Where the minor is subject to these special rules, penalty tax rates apply to such children receiving dividends, interest, rent, royalties or a family trust distribution.

Where such income is between $417 and $1,307 tax will be paid on the excess of income over $416 at a rate of 68% whilst any amount of such income in excess of $1,307 will be subject to tax at a rate of 47%.

  1. Where do I go for help?

If you believe that you required to lodge an income tax return or that you may wish to lodge a return in order to obtain your tax refund, you may wish to either contact the ATO or look at their website for more details on the ATO’s website.

Should you want to get independent tax advice then try to locate an accountant who has the tax expertise to makes sure you lodge a correct income tax return but make sure that the accountant is also a registered tax agent who has been legally authorised to provide such services.

And if you are entitled to a tax refund go get it!

[1] La Trobe University has used reasonable care and skill in compiling the content of this general commentary. However, it should not be relied upon as advice in any circumstances, and no warranty is provided by either the University or the author concerning the accuracy and completeness of these materials. Accordingly, they disclaim all and any liability to any person in respect of reliance on any of the matters raised in these materials, and professional advice should be sought from an appropriately qualified registered tax agent where required.             

 [2] Refer to Example 8 of Taxation Ruling TR98/17.

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